Winning Votes for Transit: Lessons From a Conservative

The work of a transit advocate is never done. That’s the story
taking shape in California, where the establishment of a high-speed
rail network, approved by voters in November, 2008, is facing legal
challenges from a number of city governments near San Francisco.

NA_AT918_TRANVO_G_20081111164911.jpgA rendering of the proposed California HSR line, via The Wall Street Journal.

In response, Network blog Cyclicio.us
has put out some recommendations from an unlikely source: the late Paul
Weyrich, the conservative founder of The Heritage Foundation. Weyrich
got his start in political organizing advocating for rail transit. His
advice: never let down your guard, even if your issue enjoys majority
support.

First, you need to understand that a referendum is very different from
an election between candidates. In an election between candidates,
people may dislike both, but in the end voters have to vote for one of
them, even if they choose the lesser of two evils. In contrast, in a
referendum, if voters have doubts they vote ‘no.’

Often,
the proposal has had great initial support in opinion surveys, maybe
70%. But then the attacks start. The proponents make the mistake of
ignoring the charges instead of
replying to them. By election day, that 70% has become maybe 40% and
the referendum is lost.

Cyclicio.us warns California residents that they could suffer the same fate if rail advocates are complacent:

Maybe there is a majority
on the [San Francisco] Peninsula who still support High Speed Rail, but don’t depend on
that majority — organize, mobilize, and address the objections from the
detractors, or the project will never get off the ground.

Also on the Network today: 295 Bus has already taken up the HSR cause, publishing a letter to the editor defending high-speed rail development in California; Wash Cycle corrects those who argue that funding for transportation projects would be better spent elsewhere; and the Political Environment looks at the connection between poor air quality in Wisconsin and lack of state leadership on energy.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Winning Votes for Transit: Lessons From a Conservative

|
The work of a transit advocate is never done. That’s the story taking shape in California, where the establishment of a high-speed rail network, approved by voters in November, 2008, is facing legal challenges from a number of city governments near San Francisco. A rendering of the proposed high-speed rail line in California, via The […]

Anti-Rail Candidates Take Aim at High Speed Dreams in the Midwest

|
Here’s another installment of our series on key governor’s races. Here’s the news from Wisconsin and Ohio. Check out our previous coverage of California, Texas, Maryland, Colorado, and Tennessee. Let them serve as a reminder to vote on Tuesday. “I’m Scott Walker. And if I’m elected as your next governor, we’ll stop this train.” That’s […]

Honolulu Mayoral Frontrunner Would Torpedo Light Rail Project

|
However controversial a rail project is, is it a good idea to pull the plug after construction has already begun? Honolulu residents have that question to ponder from now until Election Day. The city’s mayoral election has become a referendum on its controversial rail project. Former Gov. Ben Cayetano came out of retirement (and took […]

Mixed Bag for Closely-Watched Local Transit Races

|
Last night delivered some good results — and some disappointment — for transit-related ballot initiatives around the country. The biggest disappointments came from Los Angeles, Memphis, and Houston. A measure to continue the half-cent sales tax for transit in Los Angeles County until 2069 was narrowly defeated, falling less than two percent short of the […]

Sales Tax Hike Could Save Olympia's Transit System

|
If transit supporters don’t turn out at the polls, service in Thurston County will plummet by about 25 percent compared to levels made possible by a small sales tax hike. Image: Seattle Transit Blog It may be the middle of summer, but if you’re paying attention, it’s already election season. With a string of primaries […]